Project Minima:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Renewed and Reconsidered

~ Mother Self-Portrait, Otto, prismacolor pencil on board, 1977 ~

Something's happening here with these tablecloth dresses.  I tried to stop making them after finishing the 6th one.  (You haven't seen the last two yet).  And I found it rather difficult.  In fact, it seemed like I was a bit despondent, or bereft.   I mean it's pretty weird that I made 6 in a row of the same pattern to begin with -  I've never made more than 2 of any one thing that I recall.  I tried looking through books, patterns, online sources, but couldn't get motivated toward anything else.  I was in a pickle or more like a jar full of pickles.

Here's what I think is going on.  My reaction to stopping was a bit overblown for the reality of the situation.  Therefore it was probably symbolic.  What were tablecloth dresses symbolic of?  I'll give you one guess.  My mother.  Yep, they reminded me of home, the 50's when I was born, and Mom used to wear them when I was young (house dresses that is), while the table wore the cloths.

Mom wearing house dress and that's me!

Sh*t, I even used to wear them during the feminist movement in art school.  Back when there were no women artists in any History of Art books and all the art instructors were men.  I wore my Mom's old pink bakery uniforms as painting smocks in my art classes.  

me as grad student in my studio with portrait paintings

I even painted myself wearing 'em

or hanging there as a still life. 

I did figurative narratives which were personal.  Remember the Personal is Political?  Pink was my favorite color and I had lots of pink house dresses to wear. 

mixed media on board of me as an asst. cook at summer art camp

Maybe that's why I felt so comfortable wearing my current tablecloth dresses, like comfort food, you know?  Plus you can be so creative within confined limitations.  Figuring what goes together, where to place the pattern, etc.  

Anyway, here's what I've been doing since I've made myself stop and reconsider what I'm doing and why.  As Jean of Dross into Gold talks about in her latest post, A Meditation, being more mindful of it all in the moment.

Some are still in process, some are complete.  See them after the break...

I worked on these for awhile with the intention of painting them distressed white from the moment I bid on them.  Yep, they're from ebay.
Hand-Painted White Distressed Shoes

Robert Clergie is the brand, light brown suede was the color, yuck  
Actually I've worked on them some more since the pix.
This is how they originally looked!
They've become more distressed, I'd say.  Used acrylic paint I had on hand and rubbed it on with my fingers.  Colors were white, iridescent bronze & opalescent gold.

Remodeled shirt to fit
In my attempt to use tablecloths in some other ways, I started small by taking apart an old pink linen shirt that no longer fit.

and added a side insert that continues up into the sleeve
I used the faded border of a small tablecloth as the side inserts.

See the elephant design woven into the border?
They march up the side single file.

then I embellished and elongated the enlarged sleeve

I ripped open the sleeve hem which added another 2 inches, added lace, inserted elastic and sewed on bias tape as trim to give it some visual weight.

some crocheted lace along the bottom shirt hem was the finishing touch.
It's the Skirt!
This is a teaser shot of what the top was made for...a lovely cotton gored skirt with satiny inserts, pink of course.  More in another post sometime...

Recovered Bow-tie
 I've had this for so long.  A 50s bow-tie that's just disintegrating.  I covered it with the same color gauze and still have to hand sewn it in place.

  I thought it would be a good way to masculinize the girliness of the pink skirt and top.  yeah.

All hand-sewn franken-dress

This is interesting, I think, in light of what I've mentioned.  I started working on this at one of my Mom's first ER visits, next to her bed for hours and hours and hours.   I recall taking it with me to sew in various waiting rooms when it all started.   Then I don't know what happened.   I remember I didn't like it, thought it looked awful no matter what I did with it and just put it away.  

Well, during this time of reconsideration, I got it out again and things changed, I changed.  I was ready for it, I actually appreciated it, thought it was rather lovely.  And so I've been continuing with the hand-sewing, perhaps in different ways than before, but going forward nonetheless.


Really the front is an old dress I loved but could no longer wear, so I had flayed it open.  The back section was a large scrap of fabric that I simple draped alongside it adding lace trim to shape it up a bit.  

You can see all the detail shots of the dress on my Clothes for Summer page if you'd like.

I'm still doing the hand sewing, so it may be awhile before I'm wearing it for a post.  Maybe I should just wear the bow-tie as is?  The other two items are ready to roll.

And with that I'm joining all the other Visibles at Patti's Not Dead Yet Style.  Come on over.


  1. You are amazingly creative and inspiring...I KNOW I've said that already. haha, But really..sheesh.
    I love the photo of you sitting with your paintings in the background. I have one of myself working on a pastel piece back in high school. It was the night before it was due and I worked better under pressure I guess. I should post it some time.

    I feel the same way about kimonos right now. I haven't made my first one yet but I am currently washing the new fabric I bought today at a closeout place. I feel like I want to make 100 of them and add my art in patches to the back with other embellishments. I wonder what that symbolizes?? Just blind ambition maybe. ;) We'll see.....

    The other other day I bought some loose flowy pants from the thrift store and tried to taper them in to the ankle. Right now they're in the garbage can. Altering is harder than I though. I think I need more experience!

    1. Man, I just wrote a really long comment and google ate it!!!
      I'll be back.

    2. Once more with feeling. Your kimono ideas sound intriguing. Can't wait to see what you come up with. Having your drawings as patches seems very cool. I had a kimono phase that went on for many years in both my sewing and my art realms. The kimono form is just wonderful. I could talk about it forever, I think.

      Get those pants out of the garbage can, Joni! You have nothing to lose now. How about harem pants or bloomers or tap pants or pedal pushers...? Happy sewing!

    3. I had a full day of sewing today and kept thinking of the Pao Mantra, "the seam ripper is my friend." Over and over....I was sewing a kimono and had to take the neck band off only once but the last job of connecting the sleeves is much hard than I thought it would be. Instead of having me do a set in sleeve with the side seems already sewn up it's telling me to sew up to the small dots and "break thread" and I just can't figure out what the heck! I've searched you tube videos for over an hour. I've decided to take the sleeves off and try it with the "set in sleeve" technique instead. The pattern is from 1985 and could be half the problem...the pictures are so hard to decipher. And of course, being a newbie is a great deal of the problem. I wish you were my neighbor!

    4. my goodness, google did it again, swallowed up my long reply. seems to happen when I sign in. I guess it's like seam ripping...

      I sent you an email about it, but basically it just means to sew until you get to the dot, stop, cut your thread and then restart sewing on the other side of the dot. You do have to back stitch at both seams though or they'll become unraveled, but that's it really. I think illustrating it or writing it complicates things more than is warranted. The reason for the break is apparent later on, usually it's a point where another piece is attached at a different angle and/ or some flexibility is needed. Often a clip/ snip is done up to, but not through, the dot to aid in this flexibility. Don't be afraid to do that, it is needed. Have fun and Kudus to you for Kimono-ing, Kido.

      Believe me, some days I unsew more than I sew. It's just part of the deal.

    5. Thanks so much Pat, that helps! I though it meant to actually break open the stitches plus I didn't have my dots marked properly.
      You're an art therapist? That is very interesting.

    6. Well, I suppose that's what it means if you just stitched on through!

      Yeah, as if one "useless" degree wasn't enough, about 10 years later I went back to grad school to get me another! This time in art therapy, which in my case, included the same studies as social work, but with art therapy theory & practice thrown in. The school's psych dept. was geared toward research rather than clinical, so that was why. yep.

    7. Well, if you ever lead a retreat or sessions of some kind I'd love to attend! I've decided after following your blog I'm going to include more art, and some other things....

  2. I enjoyed this post so much Pao. The warm thoughts about your mother and the photos and the tablecloth references. Space and time untied (type-o for united but untied seems to work too) through home cloth and uniforms. Your handsewn dress is exquisite even in process. And I loved your photos from school days.

    1. I like the use of untied for united. very nice. How did type-o come to be, by the way? What's the 'o' stand for?
      I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Melanie. I wondered if I was saying too much.

    2. the "o" is short for oops!

  3. Life is a mobius strip.

    You are so beautiful! Your thoughts, creativity, artwork, and yes, the outside of you too.

    You're such an inspiration. And I love the shoes too. :)

    1. Yes it is, or sometimes I think of it as a spiral. Always coming 'round to the same thing(s), but at a slightly different level. Those are some lovely words you've given me, Gam Kau. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity. Thank you.

  4. This was such an enjoyable, thoughtful post. I am in awe of people like you whose creativity spans so many mediums. The tablecloth dresses are obviously meaningful to you, but also beautiful works of art. Your restyle of the shoes is so inspired; you would never know they started out their life as drab brown.

    I need some inspiration and motivation to try making things - thank you for sharing this.

    1. May the creative spirit be with you, Shelley. You know it always is - just look at how awesome you dress yourself! I've always admired how actively you go out and about surrounding yourself with all things art. And post about it too! I'm always happy to be an inspirator.

  5. A beautiful and thoughtful piece on grieving. Your writing is as exquisite as your creative process. I adore the photos of you and your art from your graduate school days. Your feelings for your mother and your loss of her touch me deeply.

    1. You go right to the heart of the matter, Judith. I don't think of it as 'my writing,' I'm just trying to say what I think is going on. I never expected to put up those school pictures, but as I wrote, I remembered them as records of the pink house dress phase. And then the Mother Self-Portrait came to me at the very end for the perfect title piece. Weird how that all works out, or not, really.

  6. Pat, I didn't realize you were an artist! I spent some time poking around your art website and I am in awe of how well you've done with such a huge variety of media! Once upon a time I was a double art major with English, but then I transferred schools and the new one had an abysmal art program so I just went with English. I thought I'd still do art, but I never had much time or a good space to keep all my materials and in-progress work in. I was mostly an oil painter because the medium is so forgiving. I always wanted to do work in encaustic, so I particularly enjoyed looking at your encaustic pieces.

    1. Hey Gina,

      Yeah, back in the day, it was totally not cool to switch into different media to get your message across. Serious artists always stayed in their designated areas - sculptors built things, painters painted, drawers drew, etc. I always had to express in what ever media was necessary for what I was trying to bring into form. And I usually didn't know exactly what that was, so there was a lot of experimentation going on until I found what the 'right' material was for me at any given time.

      I think you're right though, you do need to make the time and the space to work. I've always done that. Whether it was the biggest room in my apartment, or a separate studio in another building, or several rooms in our house, my work space is a priority. I spend the majority of my time in the studio on a daily basis. My husband (aka my true love) is a painter and has his own studio space as well. He touches base there at least once a day. I'm glad you enjoyed the art site.

  7. It is a powerful post. You are an incredibly gifted artist in so many areas! Thank you for sharing your creative process and your life journey. I can't explain how, but it helps me...

    1. I find the creative process absolutely fascinating. As an art therapist, that is what I focus on in my work with clients. Being able to notice, to discover and appreciate one's creative process is such a powerful tool for personal growth and understanding. And it can be such a concrete thing to get a hold of and work with. Very cool. Thank you Natalia.

  8. You and I are of a similar era, pao dear. Lucky you to survive art school! I didn't make it past a year and a half because I was into textiles and nobody else was back then. So I went practical instead. Now you are obviously creating a series with your tablecloth housedresses. When you're done they will really need a gallery show of their own, don't you think?

    Also love the shoe transformation. I've already been inspired by you to paint my old Birkies. You are amazing!

    1. I remember that. I had a good friend, Lori Christmastree, who was a fiber artist at the time and I don't recall there being anyone else. Was there even a department? Was it just part of Sculpture? Or relegated to Crafts? As it was, everything was so segregated. Painters only hung out with painters, sculptors with sculptors, photographers weren't really artists, nor were printmakers, etc. etc.

      So how did you go 'practical?'

      You know now I'm estranged from the art scene because I've been exclusively sewing for the last 4 years or so. Maybe more, I can't remember. And I was so immersed in galleries, showing, openings, et. al. Honestly, I can't be bothered anymore. I just see sewing as another creative media.

      So let's see those renovated Birkies! Maybe you could yarn bomb them!

  9. The subtleties of those painted shoes! Interesting to hear you are an art therapist. You're doing art therapy on yourself in this post! I agree with Louisa, your tablecloth dresses are definitely a series. In fact you could do a whole show on Grief Sewing. The hand sewn dress is ethereal and lovely, and I love the bow tie! Although, maybe lose the pins if you want to talk, eat or live another day :-)

    1. The shoes have gone through a few more changes since then, all to the good, I think. Yep, it's a circle of art, therapy, teaching and life. They interface well together. The bow-tie is losing pins as we speak!

  10. Thanks for this Pao, your writing about your mother is so moving. I do believe in comfort clothing, as well. Wonderful newly-white shoes! Thanks for sharing your marvelous creative mind with Visible Monday.

    1. Thanks Patti. I was just trying to explain what was going on with me as played out in my sewing. And thank you for always being there for us all to gather on Visible Mondays.

  11. I find it wonderful that you created something beautiful out of such despair and sadness. My patchwork curtains were born of the same background, I needed a distraction and a focus to take me away from the anger and grief i was dealing with after my mum's death from cancer.
    Love those tablecloth dresses, I know you've inspired Krista to create her own - which will also serve as therapy for her after her dad's death.
    Those shoes are genius and I'd have that photo of you amongst your artwork on display on my wall of beautiful women, you remind me of Patti Smith - like you another incredibly strong, talented and inspirational woman. xxxx

    1. I guess that shows: Creativity is the answer when all else fails. Your mum must've been awfully young when she succumbed to cancer, dear Vix, I mean you're so young as it is.
      Krista is making a tablecloth dress? I cannot wait to see it. I am so sorry to hear about her father's recent death. My true love just gave me a book, a graphic novel I guess is what you call it, i.e. a hardcover comic book by Roz Chast called "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?"

      I found it both right on and hilarious at the same time and only wished I had read it while everything was going on so I wouldn't have felt so helpless and confused. The link gives a few snippets of it.

      Oh my, Patti Smith! puleeze, she's MY idol.